County view: Strange dwellings
PUBLISHED: 09:50 27 January 2011 | UPDATED: 20:34 20 February 2013
A tongue-in-cheek look at the mystery of Suffolk's ideal homes
A tongue-in-cheek look at the mystery of Suffolks ideal homes
Illustration by LUCY ROBERTS
There are certain pages within this magazine, pages that appear regularly every month, which fuel my nervous suspicion that Suffolk is gradually being colonised by strange beings from outer space, perhaps from that galaxy they recently discovered loitering with intent at the furthest edge of the universe.
These alien beings somehow get hold of fishermens cottages in Aldeburgh, old barns near Framlingham or abandoned chapels not far from Southwold. Then, probably with one blast from their pocket phasers and two twirls of a light sabrewhoosh, theres Farrow and Ball paint everywhere, alabaster staircases, chrome and glass portholes by the front door, origami lampshades, Baroque doorknobs and a Bose sound system in every room.
They even build completely new houses, often with the ground floor either walled entirely in glass or cantilevered out over an abyss.
In each room, every chair is meticulously placed at right angles with the edge of the Afghan matting and the Italian mosaic-topped coffee table, on which rest two neatly-stacked books, one about early Byzantine church music and the other about exciting things to do with driftwood. Move a candy-striped scatter-cushion at your peril.
For anything at all to move even a fraction would ruin the effect utterly. But its very obvious that nothing does move in these architectural confections, certainly no earthly creature. No human child, for instance, has ever been let off the leash within a mile of these rooms.
We ordinary Suffolk humans, however, know that normal life in one of our own family houses, even in the rarefied gentility of Southwold or Aldeburgh, means flowered Wellington boots under the sofa, with Lego bricks and peanut butter fingerprints on every surface. Our carpets are always hidden under an archaeologically promising layer of broken Barbie dolls, half-open books, old newspapers and DVDs, beach pebbles, several gadgets that switch other gadgets on and off and a Waitrose shopping bag full of bills that need dealing with urgently.
We ordinary Suffolk humans, however, know that normal life in one of our own family houses, even in the rarefied gentility of Southwold or Aldeburgh, means flowered Wellington boots under the sofa, with Lego bricks and peanut butter fingerprints on every surface.
The beings that create the houses you see in the magazines must also have evolved with some kind of telepathic sensitivity denied to the rest of us, mere mortals that we are. They always seem to know where to find utterly loyal and fantastically devoted plumbers, builders, electricians, structural engineers, glaziers, joiners and general handymen in any part of Suffolk, people who always turn up on time and always know where to lay hands on, say, a rococo mirror, a gothic porch for the front door or a wood-burning stove in bright red enamel.
As well as all this, the new owners of these properties seem able to sense in a most mysterious way where all the best Suffolk gardeners are and they recruit them to create the most unearthly, unreal of gardens to surround their houses.
Not for them the simple thrill we coarse gardeners feel when something weve planted actually grows, even if its just two misshapen carrots. Oh no. The gardens outside these houses have elaborate drifts of flowers, arranged in subtle variations of colour and texture and leaf shape into enormous herbaceous borders.
The lawns, impeccably weed-free and precisely edged, make the Centre Court look like the Dunwich heathland. Theres no mulch of tennis balls and croquet hoops under the lilac, no well-worn footpath across the rose bed.
All is calmly, serenely, flawlessly elegant, just like the house interior.
It wouldnt do for the rest of us. Whoever lives in these new Suffolk houses clearly leads a life that matches the calm and serenity of the surroundings. Not for them any daily, weekly, monthly anxieties about the blocked radiator and the hole in the stair carpet, about the childrens homework and defrosting the freezer.
No, for them life is always under control and everything is always perfectly organised.
They cant be human.